We have reached the point in this 105th legislative session where the afternoon hearings for several Standing Committees are wrapping up. All hearings must be completed by March 23rd. The first full-day floor debate begins March 28th after a four day recess/weekend break. These recess days allow Senators and their staff time to prepare for the bills they are introducing on the floor and study the other bills that will be presented the following week.
The deadline for Priority Bills for both Senators and Committees was this week as well. Each Committee is given the ability to prioritized two bills for their particular committee and each Senator is allowed one bill to be his/her Priority Bill. Priority Bills, as the name implies, gives these bills priority over others bills in being brought to floor to be heard and debated on during this session.
The bills I personally sponsored this session were at the request of various agencies, mostly law enforcement agencies. While these all were important bills, none of them rose to the level sufficient for me to choose for a priority bill.
So, I am opting to choose to prioritize another Senator’s bill. In this case I am choosing a Senator Laura Ebke’s Legislative Resolution. LR6 is a resolution to Congress for a convention of the states to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
It’s hardly news that many Nebraskans believe the federal government is out of control. You may be asking what can we, at the state level, do to rein in the seemingly out of control federal government? The answer lies in the brilliance of our Founding Fathers when they wrote the Constitution some 230 years ago. The authors of the Constitution anticipated the possibilities of an out of control power grab by the federal government, pulling away the intended authority granted to the states over the federal government. As a potential safeguard against this, they created Article V.
Article V of the Constitution allows for a Convention of States. Article V of the Constitution, sets out two ways to propose constitutional amendments. The usual method is for Congress to put forth amendments, if two-thirds of both houses propose it. The alternative is to have a convention of states craft amendments. The legislatures of two-thirds of the states, or 34 states, must apply to Congress for such a convention to be called.
Whichever way they are proposed, amendments must be ratified by 38 states to take effect.
The goal of LR6 would be to propose constitutional amendments for three very specific purposes; (1) curbing federal power, (2) imposing federal fiscal restraints and (3) putting term limits on federal officials. I argue that the nation has strayed from the original intention of the writers of the Constitution, under which the states formed a federal government but kept significant powers to themselves. The time has come to rein in our “super-sized” federal government. Thankfully our Founding Fathers have given us a means to do this with adequate safeguards to our Constitution.
Eight states have passed Article V legislation. Furthermore, 29 states currently have pending legislation. Nebraska could be added to that list if lawmakers pass Legislative Resolution 6.
Some have legitimately expressed concern that a convention could overstep its purpose and start proposing radical changes to the Constitution. After much research I am convinced that there are safeguards against such a runaway convention, including the steep hurdle of ratification. The convention idea is part of a larger movement to limit the power of government.
This is really an issue about the future of the country. I believe it’s a reasonable thing to be talking about. Many voters I visit with express more concern about what was happening in Washington than in Lincoln. Among their worries were the national debt, taxes, and federal regulations, which are the result of legislation passed by ‘career politicians’.
I am prioritizing this Resolution because I believe it deserves debate by the full Legislature. LR6 details what constitutional changes should come out of a Constitution Convention gathering.
This week I also sponsored two bills in committee hearings. Both bills focused on protecting the good people of Nebraska. LB319 would provide confidentially of first injury reports relating to workers compensation. Currently, these workers compensation reports are not covered by HIPPA regulations and are open to the public. These reports contain personal information about the worker that I feel should be kept private unless that person waives confidentially.
The second bill I sponsored was LB556 which would alter Nebraska’s Criminal Code as it pertains to firearms. This particular bill is quite complex and had several sections dealing with different firearm related offenses. I am just going to briefly touch on one aspect of the bill at this time. A large portion of the bill defines the term of what is a facsimile firearm, a toy gun if you will, and the use of said facsimile firearm in the commission a felony offense. Today’s “toy guns” are not what you and I grew up with as kids. These guns, look, feel, and have mechanical actions and sounds of a real firearm. The perception and fear of the person being accosted by an individual using one of these facsimile firearms is going to be same as if it were a real firearm. Therefore, in my opinion, the use of a facsimile firearms during a crime should carry a similar chargeable offense.